Mika Miko We Be Xuxa

[Post Present Medium; 2009]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: punk, post-punk
Others: Los Angeles, The Valley, Orange County, Inland Empire

Mika Miko come fatally imbricated with The Smell space, the Los Angeles percolator of downtown self-reliance and Peter Pan ethics that’s become de rigueur on the DIY circuit, the peppier cousin to 924 Gilman or the ever-precipitous ABC No Rio. With No Age, Abe Vigoda, and dozens of more challenging acts — John Wiese, for example, has set up shop — Mika Miko has perhaps typified the community qua community. Their music — well, qua music — hasn’t been demoted, but its relative simplicity is a stiff tonic to the mediocrity that can flourish in spaces marked principally by their self-marginalization.

On We Be Xuxa, Mika Miko sound familiar — maybe a little leaner since 2006’s C.Y.S.L.A.B.F., but still committed to the Southland bricolage that nourished their debut. It’s maturation, maybe, but of a staunchly atavistic sort. Track down a copy of Chunks, the Pettibon-inscribed, SPOT-produced 1981 comp from SST, and it’s not hard to trace the ladies’ early-Reagan lineage: within the field bounded by Descendents–Cheifs–Stains on the one hand, and the ephemeral home-grown no wave of Saccharine Trust and Slivers on the other lie Mika Miko’s conditions of possibility. As before, they balance stompers with skronk, the bop with the slop, and convincingly so. But this time there’s less fusion than careful inventory: We Be Xuxa is the soundtrack for two unrelated ragers.

Opener “Blues Not Speed” headlines the first camp, and Mika Miko bash through five little anthems before capitulating to dissonance in the form of “Totion,” premised on a bass line confusingly recycled from the 2006 effort. “Wild Bore,” revamped since the 666 EP, sounds good, but “Sex,” a Urinals song, sounds better, even minus the surf-shock harmonies that defined the original. (No Age recently covered “Male Masturbation,” so it’s worth speculating on what seems like phase two of a Smell conspiracy to canonize The Urinals — a welcome cause given the truly pitiful attendance at their New York reunion show last year.) All the hallmarks are thrown into memorable relief: the supple, peek-a-boo bass; the meaty guitar tone; the loose Fraggle Rock percussion now supplied by Male Drummer Seth Densham; the ramshackle production values by which each component powers along in its parallel galaxy, occasionally collapsing on a notional midpoint in the spirit of complete ambush. Jenna Thornhill’s vocals — her yowls and supremely confident post–war whoops — contort and warmly disorient. And one song, “Turkey Sandwich” (chorus: “I want a turkey sandwich”) is about wanting a turkey sandwich.

They’ve carefully segregated the album, though, and the spikier nein-wave numbers cluster. There’s “Totion,” the big video hit, but otherwise these serve by way of an outro. “Sex Jazz” isn’t the squalling shock it might be; “Keep On Calling” issues a saxy strut; then it’s closing time and they still want a turkey sandwich. (And she wouldn’t give it to me!)

It’s catchy, committed, prehensile punk rock. The separate-but-equal sequencing is unproductive, but it only underlines the fact that Mika Miko have truly mastered the conventions and seductive energy indigenous to two disparate currents of the American scene. Some songs resolve, while others fight wars of attrition, hung out to dry, decomposing, repetitive, in the summer sun. Some coast; some stagger. It’s great. But this is the last time.

1. Blues Not Speed
2. Turkey Sandwich
3. I Got a Lot (New New New)
4. Wild Bore
5. Sex
6. Totion
7. On the Rise
8. Beat the Rush
9. Johnson R. Cool
10. Sex Jazz
11. Keep On Calling
12. Turkey Barnyard Mix

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